Sunday, June 20, 2010

Who is the Real Mother?

Many an adoptee has shouted at his or her adoptive mother: “You are not my real mother!” The real mother the adoptee imagines is probably a movie star or CEO who has conceived her baby in love and carried it for nine long months until birth did they part.

But as I watched Google Baby on HBO, an Israeli produced film about global outsourcing of surrogacy in India, I had a moment of panic for the babies being born there. Who is their real mother? Is it the American woman who sold her eggs to be mixed with an unknown American man’s sperm to make the embryo that will be frozen and packed in liquid nitrogen and flown to a surrogacy clinic in India, there to be placed in an Indian woman’s uterus to become a baby that will be given to the couple who ordered it? If that sounds long-winded and complicated, it is.

The problem is that adoptees imagine the real mother is the one who carried them in her womb. That is where they believe they bonded. The sound of her voice, the movement of her body is imprinted on them. At three days they can recognize the smell of her milk. So where do those who are created by surrogacy go when they go in search of their real mother? To the woman whose egg has their genetic map? Or to the non- genetically related woman in a small town in India, who lives in a nice house because of the money she got for carrying them for what must have seemed like nine very long months. The film shows how they were whisked away from her at the moment of birth – no cuddling or breast feeding here.

We learn that these surrogate mothers must live at the clinic during their pregnancy. We see them lying in a room filled with cots, an overhead fan slicing through the heat. This is what the maternity home my mother was in must have looked like, I thought. All those pregnant women living together in various stages of pregnancy until they delivered the goods and were allowed to go home.

So there’s no passion, or love, or sex in these outsourced surrogate arrangements. Egg donors, who should be called egg sellers, go their separate way after delivering their eggs, just as their eggs go their separate way to help make a baby. The egg sellers will never know if a baby was the final product. But that’s not the name of their game, which was to have money for schooling, or whatever their needs.

Considering how controversial surrogacy is, Zippi Brand Frank, the Israeil producer and writer, does not moralize, but rather presents everyone in a sympathetic light. The inspiration for the film is a gay Israeli man named Doron, a father through surrogacy, who sets up a business procuring eggs and sperm in America, which are made into embryos for Indian women to make into babies for the childless.

We are told that what parents pay for hiring a surrogate mother in India is much less than they would pay in the States. We are not told what the baby will pay in identity confusion over the years no matter what surrogate womb it is incubated in.


  1. This is pretty sickening!
    Your thought that the adoptee fantasizes the bmom to be a movie star or CEO doesn't feel right to me. My birthson was told a pretty good version of the truth about me and had no illusions like that (I was 16, I desperately wanted to keep him, but did not know how to get support in doing that).
    Anyway, I'm willing to bet that more adoptees figure their bmom is a crack whore than a CEO...

  2. I did not see this, but saw an Oprah episide that shpwed the clinic and the "surrgate" mothers, crying when they handed the babies over.

    I was shocked and sickened that Oprah saw nothing wrong with it and thought it was a "win-win" - two women "helping" one another.

    Yes, the Indian woman got enough to buy a new house. But they risked their lives. In one case the Indian mother was four foot nothing and the sperm father over six feet tall. As they posed for a phopto tofther, Oprah laughed out loud at the absurdity of their difefrences withour cosidering the risk to this woman who in fact had to endure a c-section to deliver his huge child!

    Yes, they get a house, but no sustanable income for the upkeep and many are shunned by their fellow villagers who know what they did to get that house.

    None of this bothered Orpah who chose to only the advantages. I couldn't help wondering if he has ever read The Handmaid's Tale.

    Women's inhumanity and exploitation of women of lower class is unconscionable and it it is done by those who call themselves feminists and defend it as their reproductive right. Shame on them!

    And congrats to you, BJ on your new blog!

  3. I've heard a lot of things about your books, although I have never read them because of the complexity of language and culture in my own reunion.

    But I must say: I'm probably one of the very few who never, ever shouted at my mother "You're not my REAL mom!"

    Not even in anger.

  4. Nor me, nor did I have that type of fantasy you describe.
    The surrogacy industry is as immoral and corrupt as the adoption industry..when the adoptees and babies needs and rights are considered we may have progress.

  5. I really enjoy your blog, and I have a read a couple of your books, they are very insightful. I have a niece and a nephew who were "taken" away from our family by maternal grandmother who then put them up for adoption. Luckily, I found my niece, but we are still searching for our nephew. I just gave my niece your book twice born. She is only 19 and has some real struggles in trying to reconcile her life. Thank you sharing your knowledge, wisdom and experiences.

  6. Hi, BJ...good post about that movie. It was sickening to watch and no one (except us) considers the identity confusion of the generation of people growing up who were so engineered.

    welcome to blogland

    lorraine from

    First Mother Forum

  7. Over the year I pictured my natural mother as everything from a prostitute to a successful movie star. Being born in 1969 I also feared that she was the young widow of a Vietnam soldier. Adopted through Social Services, my adoptive parents were only told that she was 20, was in nursing school and had many allergies. So lack of information feeds into the fantasy lives that I assigned to my natural mother.

    The prostitute feeling came from ignorance about sex. My adoptive parents "tried like crazy" to get pregnant and it didn't happen for them. At 11 or 12 I figured this woman must have been having sex all the time to get pregnant.

    People must realize that we adoptees, get many ideas in our heads when we are really young and know little of the world. As we age those ideas sometimes stick with us. I am not saying that is a good thing, just that it happens.

  8. Hi BJ

    I think I finally figured out how to post here! How was the conference at St. Johns?


  9. What a horrendous market!!! I thought factory farming was bad and now we have factory made babies. How absolutely awful!!!

  10. I've just visited your blog for the first time, your writing is very good. I'm a Swedish Korean adoptee I wonder if I might add your blog to my Adoptee Resources ?